Senior citizen actors deliver big-time on Soul Bird

Letters to the Editor (The Guardian)
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Soul Bird

By Marlene Bryenton (opinion)

This has been a winter extraordinaire. For many seniors the long winter days can be lonely. We are very fortunate on P.E.I. to have the L.E.A.P (Learning Elders Arts Program) funded by the Dept. of Tourism and Culture and administered by the Seniors' Federation for P.E.I. In this program seniors' organizations are partnered with professional and semi-professional artists providing an opportunity to learn various artistic disciplines.

Twenty-one projects were funded this year including stained glass, crafts creations, painting, woodworking, rug hooking, soap stone carvings, handmade card making, learning guitar and a black light production. Classes are free and vary in length. A free exhibit or performance for the general public, family and friends conclude the project giving the seniors an opportunity to display what they learned.

A.C.T.S. at First Baptist Church was looking for a unique learning experience for seniors with Joscelynne Bourdeaux, actress. The decision was made to explore the option of black light using The Soul Bird story. The grant proposal was drafted and hopes were high for a positive funding response.

The grant was approved and 25 seniors were recruited through the media for this creative and unique L.E.A.P. opportunity. The seniors came faithfully most weeks with the weather most unpredictable. The average age of these seniors was 65 and there was a mix of males and females from Summerside, Fortune, York, Stratford and Charlottetown. The seniors were up for a challenge and Joscelynne delivered.

The Soul Bird tells the story of emotions and so the stage at the First Baptist Church Fellowship Hall was turned into a black space with seniors wearing black clothing and a mask. These masks were painted by the seniors to depict various emotions. Joscelynne introduced exercises which practiced emotions using lively 60s and 70s medleys. The seniors then used only their hands, head, feet and props to show the emotions such as love, hate, patient, impatient etc.

The star of the show was definitely the six-foot white Soul Bird made by Krista Giddings. It featured a large wing with drawers where the emotions were stored and opened by a key.

The fluorescent paint on the masks and seventy props carried or worn by the seniors magically transformed the stage in to a wonderland. The narrator, Bill MacFadden spellbound the audience with his deep voice as he told the story of the Soul Bird and adlibbed when necessary for missed cues. Even the little mistakes were funny and the audience showed their approval with laughter and a round of applause.

It was mesmerizing to watch the seniors take the skills they had learned in seven weeks and perform on stage for an audience of approximately 100 people. For some seniors it was their very first experience on stage.

L.E.A.P is a golden opportunity for seniors and it just goes to show that you are never too old to learn. Our Soul Bird seniors are flying high with this L.E.A.P success story. Leap for the opportunity to register for a L.E.A.P project next year.

- Marlene Bryenton is Project Co-ordinator, A.C.T.S. Soul Bird Holds The Key

Organizations: First Baptist Church, Federation for P.E.I., The Key

Geographic location: Summerside, York, Stratford Charlottetown

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